President Obama chose well in establishing the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. Recognition long has been advocated, then-U.S. Mike DeWine introducing a resolution a decade ago. On Tuesday, Ken Salazar, the secretary of the interior, visited Wilberforce, in southwest Ohio, the home of Young where the monument will stand. The word “pioneer” can be overused. Not in this instance, Young in 1889 just the third African-American to graduate from West Point, becoming the first black officer to reach the rank of captain and then the rank of colonel.
The son of a man who escaped slavery to join the Union Army, Young followed his father’s path into the military, with 28 years in the U.S. Army. Most notably, he served with and led the famed Buffalo Soldiers, part of the cavalry, comprised of black troops, the nickname from the Indian wars.
Among his missions was serving as the superintendent of a national park, his troops protecting the Sequoia forest from poachers, building the first wagon road deep into the wilderness. He proved an accomplished combat officer in the Philippines fighting and in the expedition against Pancho Villa in Mexico. His career included roles as a military attache overseas and in the early development of military intelligence. He taught science and military tactics at Wilberforce University.
All of it carried the sound of doors opening, Charles Young serving as an inspiration and, more, real possibility, a black man rising to places where no other had. His funeral was just the fourth in history to be held at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery, where he is buried.